Yianni Philippides

Seattle, b. 1977, d. 29.June.00
killed on the job by a driver, Robert Bernard, who ran a red light


I had such a vivid dream the other night. I dreamed about the accident. He'd been on my mind so much. I saw him get hit by the car, all slow like, and breaking the windshield, and then arcing down towards the pavement. And when he hit the ground his soul broke through the top of his head and rolled out. Immediately he is up in the air above the accident, shaking his head at the scene below. An then he flies away, over downtown over the cars, over us, giving us a long loving look. My dream ends. I wake with it fresh in my mind, and instead of saddening me as many thoughts of him so lately, it makes me feel warm inside and better, almost forgiving the whole fucked up situation. I guess he's still showing me a thing or two.

-Alison Sulham

Dear Mayor Paul Schell,

I am writing to you to tell you a story about a friend. His name is Yianni Philippides. He was a musician, an artist, a writer. He grew up in Washington State. He was a graduate from the University of Washington. He was kind and smart. He loved life. He spoke freely about the things around him he felt were unjust. He had many friends. Yianni loved to ride his bike. He worked in downtown Seattle as a bike courier. He was free.

On June 22nd while making his last delivery of the day, Yianni Philippides was struck by a car. He was hospitalized for his injuries. On June 29th he was pronounced brain dead and was removed from life support. His family and friends mourn the loss of Yianni.

I tell you this story because there was no news coverage of Yianni's accident. There was only a small story about our memorial bike ride for him. I am also writing to ask for your help. The messenger community in Seattle is quite significant. It is a community that plays a integral role in the growth and the functioning of the city. It is a community that is far too often criticized. I ask for your assistance in turning this around. I would like to bring a message to the City of Seattle. Messengers are not mean, irrational people. They are doing a job every day that is key to the city and to the people who make up the city. They are vulnerable. They put their safety on the line just about every day. As the city continues to grow the people who race in and out of Seattle need to slow down and take heed of others on the road, including cyclists and pedestrians. This message is clear to the messenger community with Yianni's death. There has not [previously] been a tragedy of this magnitude in our community.

I believe with your help we can get a message to the drivers in Seattle. We would like to install a memorial plaque or sculpture where Yianni was hit (Spring and Alaskan Way). I have also contacted the Traffic Control Department in regards to a speed limit sign. Please Mayor, can you find it in your heart to lend support for this cause in any way? All of those who mourn for Yianni would be thankful. We can't let people forget.

Helen Livingston

Last Thursday, June 22, our friend and co-worker #37 Yianni was hit and critically injured by a car, while working at the end of our afternoon rush, on Alaskan Way at about 5:00 PM PST. Details of the accident are sketchy (a police report should be available soon and we are searching for witnesses), but we know he was t-boned by a car while trying to cross Alaskan Way near the ferry dock. He went through the windshield of the vehicle, suffering head and neck trauma, a collapsed lung, broken femur, and a knee described as "destroyed" by a nurse at the Harborview Neural ICU. After two brain surgeries, one to remove a piece of his skull to prevent swelling from further damaging his brain, the doctors at the Pacific Northwest's finest trauma center give #37 a good chance (with physical therapy) of a strong recovery. This is only mitigated by the fact that, as I write this on Monday, he hasn't yet regained consciousness (though his coma is mostly induced, to reduce stress on his brain and system). We also know that the driver, also injured by Yianni's unorthodox entry into the passenger compartment of his vehicle, was more concerned about the damage to his car than to the bleeding courier therein.

#01 Tracy Simek

Bicyclists rally to remember friend

by Charles E. Brown and Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times, Saturday, July 01, 2000

The 100 or so bicyclists who blocked the tail end of evening rush-hour traffic downtown yesterday said they knew they were causing problems.

The honking and sneers from a few cranky commuters desperate to get home were evidence of that. But causing trouble wasn't their mission, the bicyclists said. They were there, instead, to memorialize a colleague, Yianni Philippides, who died Thursday from injuries he suffered while on the job delivering a package by bike.

"We're just doing this to remember our friend," said Tracy Simek, a courier for Fleetfoot Messenger Service, where Philippides worked. "We want people to stop and think about what we do. It's a dangerous job, and it's very important to this city."

Late yesterday afternoon, the bicyclists - most of whom work for one of the city's various courier services - gathered in Westlake Park. They then rode en masse along Fourth Avenue, then onto Second Avenue, turning on Yesler Way and ending their ride on the waterfront at the intersection of Alaskan Way and Spring Street where Philippides had been struck.

Philippides died from injuries he received June 22 when his bike was struck by a vehicle on Alaskan Way, police said. The 22-year-old University of Washington graduate had just rode onto Alaskan Way from Spring Street when he was hit by a van. The accident is still under investigation, according to Det. Kevin Andrews. It is not clear yet whether anyone was at fault or any charges will be filed.

Philippides grew up in Peshastin, Chelan County, in Eastern Washington, where his father managed an orchard after retiring from Olympic Airlines, according to his grandmother, Jacqueline Kester. As a child, he enjoyed playing in the fields and orchards with his older brother and sister. He played the drums in a local rock band, painted and drew. His calling, he felt though, was the written word.

"He could have been a very good artist or a good musician, but what he wanted to be was a writer," his grandmother said.

Philippides had a degree in political science, but wasn't sure what he would do with it, his grandmother said. He had been working at Fleetfoot for two months but had logged about a year with other courier services. The family says it is planning a memorial service next week.

At Second and Pike, a shouting match erupted when an impatient motorist tried to break the bicyclists' ranks in the one-way street.

"We knew people would get mad. But that's too bad. We want them to remember Yianni," said one bicyclist.

In the spot where Philippides was struck, they laid their bikes down in the middle of the street, blocking northbound traffic, as they held an impromptu memorial, marked with fresh-picked flowers. Ali Hatem, a Fleetfoot co-worker, poured Philippides' favorite drink - imported Red Stripe Jamaican Lager - over the flowers, as other teary-eyed bicyclists left personal tokens.

"It's a loss," Hatem said.

They stood silently, staring. Then, they rode off.

Bill would toughen law on careless driving: Young Sammamish cyclist's tragic death prompts legislation

by Noel S. Brady
Journal Reporter

SAMMAMISH -- A family's grief over the death of a 22-year-old son in a bicycling accident is helping propel legislation to stiffen penalties for inattentive drivers who injure or kill others. Now heading for a possible vote in the state Senate, the bill would create a new felony charge of second-degree vehicular assault for people who cause injury or fatal accidents through their own carelessness, even if their bad driving wasn't flagrant enough to meet current legal tests for criminal behavior.

Yianni Philippides wanted to get in shape by working as a bike messenger in downtown Seattle after he graduated from the University of Washington two years ago. When he told his parents, they were concerned.

"We were very upset,'' Yianni's mother, Kathryn Philippides, said at her home in Sammamish. "We figured he could end up with a broken arm, a broken leg. "We didn't figure it could be death.''

Last June, Yianni, the youngest of three children, lay lifeless in an intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center. A web of wires and hoses was all that kept his heart beating. He died a week later from a severe head injury. Philippides was riding his bike and delivering a package for Fleetfoot Messenger Service on June 22 when a Range Rover traveling between 26 and 36 mph struck him in a crosswalk on Alaskan Way, police say. The out-of-town driver admitted he was looking for a restaurant and failed to see Philippides, police said.

The Philippides family expected the driver to face criminal charges, but he was only cited for failing to pay attention. His fine: $250. "The most disturbing thing was learning the value of our son's life was $250,'' said George Philippides, a retired apple grower. "It was our belief that the case would go to the prosecutor's office and it would be charged as vehicular homicide. It's not that we'd like to punish (the driver), but simply to make all drivers more responsible.''

The prosecutor's hands were tied. Under existing law, a vehicular homicide conviction means showing that the driver at fault was drunk or otherwise impaired, driving recklessly or disregarding the safety of others. None of that was true in this case, prosecutors determined. The driver couldn't be charged with vehicular assault, either, because that charge requires the same factors.

"It's almost like you become a victim twice after you go through the whole process,'' Kathryn Philippides said.

Encouraged by the support of their son's fellow bike couriers and the rest of the cycling community, the Philippides set out to change the law. Their initial phone campaign led them to state Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, who already was concerned by a similar tragedy that occurred in Spokane.

"Under the current law there's a big vacancy between a criminal intent and making an honest mistake,'' Kline said from his Olympia office. Kline co-sponsored Senate Bill 5790, which would create first- and second-degree vehicular assault charges.

The first-degree crime would contain most of the elements of the current law and, like the current law, would be a class-B felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. But where existing law applies to driving that causes "serious (life-threatening) injury,'' the new standard would be "substantial harm.'' The state criminal code defines substantial bodily harm as "injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, ...impairment ... or fracture of any bodily part.''

A person would be guilty of second-degree vehicular assault by causing substantial harm to someone else by driving carelessly. A sentencing range for this lesser, class-C felony remains to be worked out, but it wouldn't exceed five years in prison.

Kline said the bill is intended to protect not only cyclists and pedestrians, but also other motorists by filling in a "blind spot'' in the law and giving prosecutors a new tool to hold careless drivers accountable. Recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the measure must be voted on in the Senate by Wednesday.

Barbara Culp, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Seattle, said she hopes the bill will be passed. "If I'm just not paying attention to a cyclist or a pedestrian, under this law I could be held responsible,'' Culp said. "This is a way to address aggressive driving."

June 9 1998 ­ the dharma manifesto

We are the new dharma bums, the new Zen lunatics. I wrote this down in my journal a few days ago and today it resonated with me even more. We experience life, we live it. We are not concerned with the day to day maintenance of things such as jobs and "what are you going to do with yourself / who are you?" These are the unimportant questions. We occupy ourselves with questions of the now. Distractions come and go, for it is nearly impossible to ignore the aspect of life that everyone deals with, and by default we must deal with them at times.

We are the others, the"outsiders" some may call us, though this term is misleading. We are more "insiders" than anyone else, we are in touch with ourselves, we know who we are and what we are doing. We are living for ourselves. We do not have to deal with vicarious living because we are often the object of others' observations and desires. Others secretly long to be like we have become, to be able to view the world on a day-to-day basis.

We are real, we are now, we are here. To us life is a simple series of tasks, everything can be broken down, everything can be digested in the right way, we only need to find that way. We do not make things conform to us, nor do we conform to outside forces. Our existence negates the need for such attempts, we simply live. The way in which we live exempts us from such limits and attempts from outside to control that [which] tries to force us to decide who we are / what we are doing. Life is ours, not for the taking because one cannot take life, but to live. That is all we seek: to live a life of simplicity and happiness. If one can fulfill these tenets, then their achievement of life has become complete, they too have joined us on the Zen pathway, and in so doing only add momentum to our growing force.

Like a tidal wave crashing onto the beach, we are on the curl, racing for the shoreline. Hunter S. Thompson said that the high water mark was reached back in the sixties; it's time for another monster high tide. We are the way. We grow upon what others have taught us and have subsequently added our own thoughts and impressions to this. I refuse to believe that this is another "sixties." We are a new revision of continual movement, and now we must be heard.

Stand from the mountain and look out upon the world and see what has become and what will become. If everyone would open their eyes, their mechanical, robot, industry-stifled, pollution-crusted, prejudiced-blinded eyes to a new way, to our way. Understanding is all we ask, all we need. We seek no converts, they will come of their own accord. We are not trying to sway anyone, I am only presenting the views - it is up to you to discover the knowledge within and then apply it to yourself. It is leap of faith, granted, but it is an easy one to make as long as one holds no preconceptions of what the future may hold. Remember to always live in the now, always be aware of everything and everyone and in so being, aware of oneself and the lack thereof.

-Yianni Philippides

Ruling that allowed parents of adults to sue for wrongful death is overturned.
Article discussing Yianni's parent's case against the driver, publisher in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer can be accessed: here.